From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Government has warned Nigerians that the new COVID-19 variant of concern Omicron, as announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is potentially dangerous, and has urged residents to exercise extra caution and vigilance in practice and enforcement of preventive measures.
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, made the appeal Monday while briefing newsmen in Abuja.
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He also urged Nigerians to get fully vaccinated, frequently tested, and continue to strictly adhere to the non-pharmaceutical intervention measures, including physical distancing, properly wearing of face masks, ensure proper ventilation and hand hygiene.
Mustapha described as alarming statistics of the levels of fraud and forgery that are going on with regards to the procurement and availability of PCR test results, warning that those behind are a danger to themselves.
He said: “The PSC is aware of some travellers who have resolved to circumvent the travel protocols by providing fake COVID-19 Test Results, Permit to Travel Certificates or declaring fake vaccination status at our Points of Entry. The weight of the law is heavy and will come hard on these people.
“I want to urge Nigerians to try as much as possible to discontinue acquiring fake PCR tests. Because the first step in addressing any emergency is first to ascertain what is the problem and if the source of your resources in terms of information is faulty, then the necessary prescriptions will be faulty.”
Speaking more on Omicron, the Chairman of PSC said: “As the DG WHO has just started today, “the emergence of the highly-mutated Omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is. South Africa and Botswana should be thanked for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant, not penalised”.
“Nigerians and Residents are therefore urged to get fully vaccinated, frequently tested, and continue to strictly adhere to the non-pharmaceutical intervention measures, including physical distancing, properly wearing of face masks, ensure proper ventilation and hand hygiene.
“However, the PSC is reviewing the situation around the world and putting in place measures to curtail the impact of the variant on the country.”
The PSC said the Vaccine Mandate will come into effect fully on December 1 and encourage every Federal Government Worker and in essence, all Nigerians and Residents to get vaccinated.
He said: “With the developments around the world, people will not be able to travel without their verified vaccination cards.”
Mustapha also said that the impasse on the Nigeria – UAE flights have been resolved in the interest of both parties. He said “although this process has taken so long to pull through with its ripple effects, we thank everyone that was involved in getting this deal. A date for the commencement of flights between the two countries will be announced in due course.”
He said the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is ramping up vaccination around the country to ensure that citizens have access to the vaccines wherever they may be. He added that “vaccines are now available, so we need people to go get their jabs.”
Mustapha said the PSC’s nine months mandate extension will come to an end by 31st December 2021.
He explained that in order to effectively capture the core elements of the national response, a National Summit to end COVID-19 in 2022 and to strengthen Global Health Security is being planned to hold in Abuja from December 6 to 7.
The Director-General of NCDC, Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, said to avoid the fourth wave of the pandemic has advised Nigerians to be vaccinated.
According to him, statistics show that most of the deaths recorded were from the unvaccinated that contracted the COVID-19 virus.
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib, commended Ogun, Nasarawa, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states for being the leading states in driving mass vaccination.
He said over six million Nigerians have been vaccinated, stressing that the number of people who have been vaccinated cannot be wrong.
National Incident Manager and Technical Head Mukhtar Mohammed, announced new travel guidelines to address the palpable fear brought about by the new variant, omicron.
He said: “There is no doubt that currently, there is a global concern about the new COVID-19 variant, the omicron which was discovered in Botswana, and announced by South Africa last week. There are palpable fears that this variant could be on its way to Nigeria, in view of the number of countries that are currently reported to detection of this variant.
“Aside today, there has not been any detected case. And the PSC has continued to review our risk of this latest information and take every necessary step to stop it from being imported into the country. We have taken far-reaching proactive measures to minimize and mitigate this possibility.
“Consequently, the PRC will be issuing a travel guideline document tomorrow. But let me highlight the contents of this travel guideline. Passengers arriving into the country are required to do a PCR test 48 hours before departure. They will also do day two and day seven PCR tests on arrival. And then you are required to self isolate for seven days. Passengers that are outbound to going out of Nigeria will be required to either show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or provide a negative PCR test taken 48 hours before departure. These conditions apply to diplomats as well.
“The measures will come effect into effect by Friday, 3rd of December 2021. The PSC will ensure that there is an enforcement of passengers who arrive and refuse to take tests. So the suspension of their passports and prosecution or both. Furthermore, we will be increasing our surveillance at the points of entry into the country, intensifying testing and contact tracing, and optimizing sequencing capacity. One of the reasons driving COVID-19 and the emergence of variants of concern, such as this new variant omicron is the promotion of vaccine nationalism. Which refers to the basic inequality at a global level that makes rich countries be able to procure vaccines for their own citizens through direct and fundamental pharmaceutical companies, while low and middle countries are lagging behind.”
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